Blue Jean Buddha - Foreword

Voices of Young Buddhists

Foreword
by Jack Kornfield

What if Buddha were born in North America, in our times? From the comfort of his modern home might he begin to wander the streets of our world and see the same human conditions of aging, sickness, and death, the same human-created sufferings of greed, war, racism, and injustice that he saw in India 2,500 years ago? When he reached his twenties would he, again out of compassion, go forth from the palaces of comfort to seek liberation for the sake of all beings?

He has. His search for freedom and universal loving-kindness can be found in the voices and spirit of the young writers in this book—in their honesty, their courage, and their care. Though we live in a world troubled by ecological destruction, consumerism, and conflict, all who listen to their hearts can sense the possibility of humans—of each one of us— being more aware, more compassionate, more free. To sense this is to connect with our awakened heart, our buddha nature. The world needs this awakening more than ever, and a new generation has begun to draw on the Buddha’s teaching to reawaken their noble hearts.

These young people’s stories tell of finding the way of the Buddha here and now, in their very lives, in Buddhist communities and in practice in the world. Whether working in the prisons or climbing mountains, on the streets of New York or the sports field, their practice is honorable. From family struggles to social activism, from failure and success to reawakened passion for the world, these tales are full of dharma learning.

In Thailand, where I lived for some years as a monk, traditionally almost all young men and women would have to spend some time in their twenties undertaking spiritual practice in a monastery. Otherwise, the Elders would say their hearts would not become “ripe,” that they would stay green like an unripened fruit. What is beautiful in this book is to see how the fruit of these contributors has begun to ripen.

As they ripen, wisdom replaces naïve excitement, judgment turns to compassion, and kindness deepens for self, for family, for all beings. This is the journey we all must take.

Finally, this new dharma generation asks important questions for the Buddhists of the twenty-first century. How do we balance meditation and social responsibility, dharma and mass media, monasticism and lay life? Do we take the Orient Express, or is there a new meeting of East and West that is our generation’s way? It is these young Buddhists who will decide.

On the day I first ordained as a Buddhist monk in the forest monastery of the Elders, I had a strange experience. It felt oddly familiar, as if I had done it many times before. Of course, we can’t say how these Blue Jean Buddhists have come to their wisdom, but maybe they are old Zen students, lamas, monks, and nuns reborn in the West. Whatever the source, what they have to teach us is inspiring. Now the dharma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end is in their good hearts and good hands.

Blessings,
Jack Kornfield
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Woodacre, California
2001

 

How to cite this document:
© Sumi D. Loundon, Blue Jean Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2001)

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